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Forget the malls and the museums. There is hardly any place in a town or city more interesting than the waterfront. It is here where one encounters life in the raw with all its piquant energy. Serdar Bayram (pictured above) has captured this quality in his photographs of Istanbul’s waterside scenes. I am pleased to share six of this gifted Turkish photographer’s works on the subject. Each one has a compelling directness and serves as a metaphor for life and the human condition. The first five were taken in 2015 and the last one in 2016.

Read more: Maritime photography à la espresso

© Serdar Bayram

This seabird appears entangled in a network of mooring lines. A closer look will show that it is adroitly perched on one of the ropes, preparing perhaps to catch a fish it had spotted under the water. The image may well symbolise man as he struggles to survive in life’s complex web of economic and political forces that he may not be aware of or fully comprehend.

© Serdar Bayram

Fishermen in oilskin jackets and sou’westers are shown working with a mammoth fishing net as though they were pulling aside a threater curtain to reveal a sunlit hillside landscape in the background. The contrast between light and dark and the range of textures are just remarkable. Bayram has created a wonderful picture of a hard life.

© Serdar Bayram

The harbour is haven for both ships and men, a refuge from the cruel sea. Bayram’s skillfully composed photograph reminds one of the changing tides and the rhytmn of life in general. It calls to mind these lines from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem, The Faerie Queene (1589-96):

Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please.

© Serdar Bayram

Like the waterfront, life is dynamic and not always sunny. A squall can strike unexpectedly. One has to believe that the storm — even the emotional or spiritual kind — will blow over. All storms always do.

© Serdar Bayram

What could be more emblematic of life in the 21st century than this chaotic image of seagulls flying and screeching in the harbour? I am reminded of the lines from The Second Coming, a poem W.B. Yeats wrote in 1919 as an allegory about post-war Europe:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The challenge — and not just for writers, artists or photographers — is not only to make some sense of the chaos. It is to have faith that man, in spite of it all, will triumph in the end.

© Serdar Bayram

Life’s path is never straight; there are many twists and turns along the way. The thing is to keep moving forward. It is the law of physics and life. As Aristotle noted in his philosophical work, Physics: “The fulfilment of what exists potentially, in so far as it exists potentially, is motion.” To stay put, I would hasten to add, is a kind of death.

~ Barista Uno

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